Tiny homes on fast track


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Work every day in a concrete urban wasteland. Commute 35 minutes to your suburban home with the plastic front lawn and meteoric property taxes. Rinse and repeat, reducing your soul while running up the utility bill.

That’s the big-sell American Dream. A few folks have shunned this for a compact, moveable tiny house of 100 to 200 square feet. But are these visionary thinkers getting new neighbors in the form of app-happy millennials?

You can trace the modern tiny-house movement to Jay Shafer, a builder who in 1997 constructed his first tiny house. Shafer sought simplicity and suitability in an efficient, moveable space. And he could live off the grid — breaking traditional conservativism-era ethos — and live in the loopholes by building his tiny house on a trailer platform to skirt zoning laws. His American Dream was his own.

But now, the tiny-house movement seems poised to hit the mainstream. Media are pushing millennials as the generational champion of tiny houses, thanks to a combination of financial necessity and — a millennial hallmark — the need to be perceived as hip and pacesetting.

Financial necessity is obvious. The worldwide economic collapse has dried up bank accounts; in 2014, homeownership for Americans younger than 35 hit a new 32-year low of 36.2 percent. Millennials have nothing of great worth, and instead of clinging to Mom’s back bedroom, they’re opting to study shows like FYI TV’s “Tiny House Nation.” They’re asking for help on tinyhousemap.com, a site that combines a Google map with Craigslist. Need a lot? Come on out to Michigan. Need materials? Road trip to Portland, Oregon.

Portland is the tiny-house hub, the uber-hip city that in April hosted the Tiny House Conference. Portland also is host to America’s first tiny-house hotel, Caravan. Plunk down $125 a night and get 150 square feet of efficiency. Caravan’s owners, in a 2014 Zillow article, noted millennials are their primary customers.

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